Salmon is one of the most perishable meats you can buy. Thankfully, when cooked and smoked, this timeline is extended quite a bit. Smoked salmon has the advantage of oxidizing much slower than fresh salmon, and thus can last in the fridge or freezer much longer.
The FDA suggests that smoked fish can last up to 2 months in the freezer when stored properly.
Here is a complete guide to freezing, thawing and preserving smoked salmon properly.
Can You Freeze Smoked Salmon?
Yes, smoked salmon holds up extremely well in the freezer, but you must take care in the way you freeze it.
There are a couple of things you should keep in mind to ensure flavor, texture and safety preservation.
The answer to these three questions is critical in determining how well your smoked salmon will freeze (and whether it's worth freezing at all).
1) Is it Air Tight and Sealed?
Salmon is chock-full of unsaturated fatty acids known as omega-3s (others as well). As healthy as these fatty acids are, they are highly prone to oxidation. Oxygen mixes with these fats to create those nasty fish flavors and aromas that can quickly become repulsing.
Moral of the story:
We want to expose salmon to as little oxygen as possible.
This will ensure our fish lasts as long as possible in the freezer. So when you decide to freeze your salmon, make sure to place it in a sealed bag and press out as much air as possible. Vacuum sealing is ideal, but if you don't have the equipment on hand, hand sealing will work just fine.
2) Are there Other Ingredients with the Salmon?
While the salmon will stay fresh (if frozen correctly), not all accompanying ingredients can promise the same. Here are some of the common salmon additions that can take on unwanted qualities in the freezer.
Creams are a mixture of fat and water-like properties. When frozen, these components tend to separate and form two layers. I suggest putting the cream on after the smoked salmon is thawed and ready to eat.
- Peas, Celery and other Crunchy Vegetables
Vegetables can lose their appealing crunch if kept at too low of a temperature. The texture change in peas will most likely be minimal (if already cooked), but the celery texture will suffer.
Herbs usually hold up in the freezer just fine. If you have the option, wait to throw herbs on after the smoked salmon is thawed and ready to eat. This will ensure the herb flavor is fresh and flavorful.
3) The Status of the Salmon Prior to Freezing
If the salmon is already on the brink of going bad, there's no reason to freeze it. It'll just take up freezer space and leave you with half-decent, potentially rancid smoked salmon.
The FDA States that Smoked fish can last up to 14 days in the fridge.
If you're still in the first week of freshness, freezing may be a viable option for you.
However, if the smoked salmon is on the last few days of its expiration, I highly suggest eating it or throwing it away.
How to Properly Freeze Smoked Salmon
If you've come to the conclusion that your salmon is still worth freezing, here are the steps to ensuring optimal freshness for as long as possible. Thankfully, the steps are easy and concise.
1) Take your salmon and place it into a vacuum sealed or hand-sealed freezer bag (squeeze out as much air as possible if using a sealable freezer bag).
2) It's very important to make sure your salmon is 100% sealed. Any tiny opening to the environment can lead to flavor deterioration, and also a disgusting smell in your freezer that can be a real pain to eliminate.
3) If sealed and frozen fresh, smoked salmon can last up to 2 months (maybe even longer). Read below on how to thaw properly.
Defrosting Smoked Salmon
A Day Ahead
I always encourage people to "slow thaw" their smoked salmon. Changing temperatures too drastically can cause some unwanted flavor and textural changes.
Place your smoke salmon in the refrigerator 24 hours ahead of time and let the temperature rise to 35-40°F. Take it out of the fridge 20 minutes beforehand if you plan on reheating. If eating cold, you can dig right in.
Do not thaw at room temperature. This can give unhealthy bacteria a chance to come in and take over.
A Few Hours Before
If you need your smoked salmon a little quicker, you can also do a "controlled thaw". Submerge the sealed bag in a bowl of cold water.
Salmon can take anywhere from one to three hours to thaw depending on the size. The cold water will help it defrost while protecting it from reaching temperatures that unhealthy bacteria thrive in.
Signs Your Smoked Salmon is Bad
Thankfully, the signs of smoked salmon spoilage usually aren't subtle. Here are some of the more obvious indicators of bad smoked salmon.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you Freeze Lox?
Similar to smoked salmon, you can freeze lox. If the lox is still in the package, place it right in the freezer and it can last up to 3 months.
If the package is already opened, put the lox in a freezer bag, push all the air out, and seal it. I've heard from some sources that lox will last up to 6 months, but I'm skeptical. If flavor quality is your number one priority, I would use it within 3 months.
How Long can you Freeze Smoked Salmon?
Again, the FDA suggests that smoked fish can last up to 2 months in the freezer when stored properly. This time is diminished the longer the smoked fish is kept in the fridge.
Does Smoked Salmon Freeze Well?
Freezing will ALWAYS have some kind of an effect on quality. The mission is to help mitigate those negative effects as best we can.
Thankfully, smoked salmon holds up relatively well in the freezer compared to other meats. Just make sure to store it with as little oxygen exposure as possible. Also make sure your freezer is in the - 4-0°C range.
Refreezing Smoked Salmon
I highly discourage refreezing smoked salmon if you can manage it. Every time you freeze, you damage the integrity of the fish.
However, if you bought frozen salmon, defrosted it and then smoked it, we find no reason you can't freeze it again. Just make sure the smoked salmon is still far enough from its expiration date that it's worth freezing.
Repeatedly doing this will eventually create a fish not worth eating. Keep what you need in the freezer and only take out the amount that you know you will use.
How to Store Smoked Salmon
If freezing, follow the steps above. If refrigerating, make sure to keep the package sealed. Also, keep in mind that fish has a small window of freshness. Smoked fish will last a little bit longer (14 days approximately), but should still be eaten as fresh as possible.
Thankfully, freezing smoked salmon is a totally viable option for extending freshness. The quality loss is usually minor and very worth it.
Just a note, all of these instructions are recommendations. This is an accumulation of notes from the FDA, other food science websites, and experienced cooks.
Your experience may be different, but to keep you safe, always rely on your intuition first. I hope this guide was helpful. Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.
Founder of Robust Kitchen